Second Presidential Forum: Dr. Damon Andrew

Brandon Clark | Staff Writer|

Image Source: LSU

On Oct. 15, Dr. Damon Andrew made his appearance at the Mitchell Center as the university’s second presidential candidate out of three. Following closely to the first forum when Mr. Jo Bonner met with South, Andrew was given 40minutes to talk about himself and what he would offer the university, as well as 20minutes to answer any questions listeners might have had for him.

Identifying his visions for the University of South Alabama Dr. Andrew explained that the university would have to work on some areas. According to Dr. Andrew, the university would first have to work on “claiming our unique space in higher education”, which concerns accessibility, such as hybrid or traditional courses, affordability, with things like scholarships and financial aid packages, and quality, with reports and rankings. Second, South would need to improve upon its constituency base to increase the university’s potential, meaning increased community engagement to “expand and enhance academic degree offerings” in an effort to promote experiential learning. Finally, South needs to work on revenue stream diversity as “public universities in Alabama are more than twice as reliant on tuition that other universities in the country.”

“Universities are such great social mobility engines, the most powerful invention that we have on this planet, and I am so impressed to see how higher education transformed my family.”

Dr. Andrew began his forum by highlighting the significant role his mother and higher education both played throughout his early life. He recalled growing up in a low income family with his mother who fixed damaged instruments on aircraft. Working for minimum wage pay and wanting the very best for her children she took night classes at Troy University and earned her degree, eventually becoming the inspiration for Andrew to “walk across the stage six times later in my career”.

Dr. Andrew described what impressed him as a freshman at the University of South Alabama.He said it was “the smaller student-to-faculty ratio”. It was because he sensed something about the university that ensured he would “get the individual attention that I needed” that he declined offers from other prestigious universities to enroll here. Dr. Andrew was able to graduate from the University of South Alabama, with the privilege of having attended during terms served by both Dr. Frederick Palmer Whiddon and President Gordon Moulton. Andrew became a fellow Jaguar in 1994 and graduated from South with his bachelor’s degree in 1998 and finally his master’s in 1999.

Dr. Andrew’s love for academia only evolved over the years as he found himself working in several different positions ranging from an academic advisor to a research assistant while pursuing his doctorate. Moving up to bigger leadership positions, Andrew was given a variety of opportunities such as director of the doctoral program in sports management at the University of Louisville and the University of Tennessee. His level of experience would eventually grant him the opportunity to become Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Troy University and the first permanent dean of a mega college(17:52) at LSU.

“Travelling down west, we would go all the way to New Orleans before we would reach a university that can match the quality of the University of South Alabama, and if we were to go east, we would go all the way to Tallahassee before we would reach a university that would match the high quality that we have here at University South Alabama,”

Transitioning into the Q&A open forum, moderated by Dr. Joel Lewis Billingsley, Dr. Andrew was presented with several questions from the student body.

“What outside experience do you believe has best prepared you for being the future president of USA?” This was the first question of the Q&A session presented by senior Broxton Sanders attending the University of South Alabama.

Dr. Andrew answered the question explaining that his gained experience from working as an academic advisor let him see “how the university runs and operates” and “the significant amount of work that staff put in day in and day out”. He claimed working in that position out of all his opportunities was “the most informative for me out of the ones that I’ve had”.

The next question concerned the issues of assault on campus and the growing initiative to equip the campus with Blue Light Emergency Systems. Dr. Andrew answered saying “you need to know that I’m going to be very strongly in support of those victims and helping to move forward”. Further, he explained that he would be willing to work with security officials, as well as students, to find the best solution, whether it be Blue Light Systems or another emerging technology.

The final question of the forum was proposed by BSU (Black Student Union) President Alexandria Danioli. Regarding retention rates, student involvement, and inclusivity. Dr. Andrew answered saying that universities should make students feel safe and welcome. He further stressed that the university should create a sense of belonging.

“In fact if you look at a lot of retention research for higher education students, sense of belonging is one of the factors that makes students want to be at that institution, be engaged, and then come back as alumni and continue that engagement,”

The next and final public forum will be held on Tuesday, October. 26 at 11a.m in the Mitchell Center and will host  presidential candidate Dr. Michael Tidwell.

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